Reforming rights : lesbian and gay struggles for legal equality in Canada
In recent years, Canadian governments and courts have increasingly responded positively to the demands of lesbian and gay communities for legal rights. As a result, in several instances, such rights have been extended, at both statutory and constitutional levels. In this thesis, I consider the politics of struggles for lesbian and gay legal equality in Canada. Although I explore several developments in this area, I focus my analysis upon two key examples: the struggle, in 1986, to add a "sexual orientation" ground to Ontario's Human Rights Code; and a key legal rights case launched in the late 1980s, and still on-going as of this writing (Mossop). More specifically, I address three key questions:  how are lesbian and gay subjects and subjectivities constituted through human rights law and what forces produce these legal constructions?  how capable are liberal democracies of accommodating 'sexual pluralism', and what are the implications of this for other areas of social transformation?  what is the relationship between the lesbian and gay rights movement, its principal opponents the New Christian Right, and 'the state' - how do the struggles of social movements for interpretive authority shape the law-making process (and vice versa)? In responding to these questions, I draw upon diverse approaches in legal theory, sociology, feminism, and lesbian and gay studies. My analysis centres upon the role of law as a site of struggle. I explore the engagements between the lesbian and gay rights movement, and its key opponent the New Christian Right. I assess the effects of lesbian and gay rights campaigns in both the short and long terms, considering issues to do with social movement mobilisation, effective political communication, and the role of these struggles in shifting dominant frameworks of meaning. I offer a detailed discussion of the role of rights, as goal and rhetoric, within political action. And I consider the relationship between law, and other forms of knowledge. I argue that the effects of legal struggle are complex, contradictory, and unpredictable. Lesbian and gay rights reforms have both entrenched and undermined dominant paradigms of sexuality, and the effects of legal struggle in this and other areas must be assessed in the long-term. This thesis contributes to knowledge in four key areas: critical rights theory; theories of law and social change; the sociology of social movements and religions; and lesbian and gay politics. I use a combination of legal, sociological, feminist, and historical methodologies.